Whenever I’m between jobs, as I am at the moment, I like to make a little investment in what I’ll call “professional development.” I love going back to school to learn something new about aspects of pastry that I don’t often get to dabble in.
Having worked in several restaurants, and with several different pastry chefs, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most restaurant pastry chefs and cooks don’t know much about cake decorating. It’s not something that’s needed in that realm day-to-day, and it’s such an all-consuming, specialist craft that there would never be the time in between daily menu production and crazy service to really even begin to develop that talent.
That being said, I did work for a few years in a restaurant with a large function area that hosted its share wedding receptions, anniversary, birthday and other private parties throughout the year. Many people arranged to have cakes delivered by outside shops, but if they didn’t mind a simple cake covered in basic buttercream or fondant and just decorated with some fresh flowers, then my chef K and I were happy to take care of it in our kitchen. That planted in me an interest in cake making and decorating, and over the last couple of years I’ve taken several courses to play around in this area.
I’ve written about the classes I’ve taken at Planet Cake before (here, here and here), and that’s where I took this latest one as well. Greg Cleary, owner of a shop called Sweetums Designer Cakes in Brisbane, came down to Planet Cake to teach the class, and pass along his tips and expertise. We learned how to make gumpaste tulips, sweetpeas, lily of the valley and ivy.
I was really happy with the end result, and I had a great time in the class! Greg was a wonderful teacher, and he is really amazing at what he does–I’m so glad he was willing to share. This was actually my second sugar flower workshop (I took a fantastic week-long one at the CIA a couple years ago), and who knows if I’ll ever use it professionally, but I’d love to learn more. And despite the fact that it takes a lot of concentration to keep my self-diagnosed ADD tendencies under control for this kind of thing, I’d like to practise at home, too, because I think you really do forget this stuff if you don’t…you need quite a lot of equipment (cutters, wires, tools, all kinds of powdered colors), though, so I’ll probably have to accumulate that over time.
With so much going on the last couple weeks, I forgot to tell you that I took course on decorating “mini cakes” at Planet Cake in Balmain. In one day, we did a little handbag, a watering can, a present box and a simple two-tier cake.
Doing work in miniature requires a lot of concentration! I’m glad to know how to do the gift box, as I’ve seen that one around (usually in Tiffany blue). And the two-tier had endless decoration possibilities. Right now, I’m taking a gumpaste flower course there…I’ll report back on that one in a few days.
I took another course at Planet Cake in Balmain this weekend. This time, the theme was “celebration cupcakes.” Obviously, these are for celebrating something very girly! They were a lot of fun to make…a little time-consuming, but really not very hard.
I’ve just finished a two-day decorating course on a wacky cake design called a “madhatter cake.” I took the course at Planet Cake in Balmain, where they make all sorts of gorgeous couture cakes.
I’m by no means an expert cake decorator, so there were plenty of things I found tricky about this design. It required a lot of precise trimming to get the angles on the finished cake just right. Also, while I have covered plenty of cakes with rolled fondant, the moment before I drape the fondant over the cake, I always have a mini heart attack! I find it so hard to make it perfect, and it’s even more so when the shape is all “wonky” like this. All in all, I’m quite happy with the way this came out though, and I’m especially fond of the poofy bow on top (even though I did slightly ding up one side of it in the car on the way home–crap!). The cake inside is a very dense mud cake that R and I will be eating for the next five years.
On Saturday I took at baking class at Accoutrement’s cooking school in Mosman. It was lead by Rachel Grisewood from Manna from Heaven. She started out by having us make an intensely flavored raspberry passionfruit cake.
Then we made briche dough, and she demonstrated how we could turn it into loaves and pizza bases. We each got to take home a piece of dough…I turned mine into a couple of big glazed cinnamon buns with walnuts for Sunday breakfast.